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Understand the role of risk assessment in enabling a person-centred approach

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Assessing and managing risks is an essential legal responsibility in care settings. Managing risk sensibly can help to protect and safeguard individuals and promote an individual’s rights.

Why risk-taking is part of a person-centred approach

Risk-taking is something that we all have an active role in within our daily lives and just because somebody is receiving care services, it does not mean that their right to make risky decisions should be denied.

We should all be working in a person-centred way, which means respecting the rights, values and beliefs of the individuals we support even if we do not necessarily agree with them ourselves.

As part of a person-centred approach, we should be promoting as much as possible the individual’s right to make their own choices and maintain as much independence as possible.

With any decision, especially important ones, there may be an element of risk. It is part of our role to ensure that the individuals we care for have all the data they need to make an informed choice for themselves and then help them to minimise the risks as much as possible.

Different uses of risk assessments

Some of the different uses of risk assessments include:

  • Universal risk assessments cover common risks to everyone in the workplace. Examples include a security risk assessment to reduce the risk of intruders accessing the premises or a risk assessment for slipping/tripping hazards in the workplace.
  • Common risks to individuals receiving care such as scalding or using cleaning products incorrectly
  • Specific risks to individual staff such as an employee that is pregnant or has recently returned to work following a surgical procedure
  • Specific risks to individuals receiving care such as an individual with a history of arson setting a fire or an individual with epilepsy having a seizure

How risk assessment relates to rights and responsibilities

The aim of risk assessments is to take a look at a situation and identify what the real risks of harm are and take sensible and proportional action to minimise them.

It is a care worker’s responsibility to ensure that any real risks are assessed to reduce the potential of harm and protect the individuals that they support. However, it is also important to understand that all individuals have the right to take risks in their day-to-day lives and person-centred values such as choice, respect and independence must also be promoted. Therefore, it is essential to strike a reasoned balance between the potential risks and the rights of the individual. If risk assessments are not performed then people may come to harm, however, if an organisation is too risk-averse then people would not be able to do anything and their independence and ultimately their well-being would suffer (for example, imagine telling somebody that they can’t play football because there is a risk of injury).

Risk assessments should, where possible, be completed in collaboration with the individual that they are intended for so that their views and wishes are taken into account and they can have their voice heard. This ensures that a person-centred approach is taken with the risk-assessing and risk-taking process.

Why risk assessment should be reviewed and revised regularly

Risk assessments should be reviewed regularly and, if necessary, updated to reflect any changes in the situations or the individuals that they cover. For example, an individual may have originally had a risk assessment around their mobility whilst recovering from knee surgery but as their knee heals and their mobility improves then the risks would decrease and the risk assessment would be adjusted accordingly. Conversely, if an individual has dementia and their condition has worsened, the risk assessment would need to be reviewed and updated to cater for additional risks.

Risk assessments should also be reviewed to ensure that they are working properly. Maybe the first iteration of a risk assessment was too risk-averse and was severely restricting an individual from living their life the way that they wanted to, so it may need to be updated to make it less stringent. Or some potential risks may not have been envisaged in the original risk assessment but have since come to light. This would need to be reflected in the review.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) requires a risk assessment to be reviewed following any incident which could cause harm. For example, after an individual has a fall or self-harms.

Risk assessments should be thought of as working documents that are regularly updated. How often they are reviewed and updated will depend on the particular risk assessment, however, it is recommended that it is done at least annually and in many cases much more frequently.

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